Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?
After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the South Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who’s asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house because the last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she’d prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He’s back on the island, and to her surprise, he’s raising a young daughter alone. Maisey’s still attracted to him, but her heart’s too broken to risk…
Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must’ve been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.
She’s convinced that child existed. So where is she now?
THE LID WAS dented and hard to get off. Maisey almost wished she’d asked Rafe to remove it before he left. She broke a fingernail before she managed to pry the two pieces apart. Then she found exactly what Rafe had said she’d find—photographs. But these photographs weren’t of her. At least, she didn’t think so. The subject, a young girl, had the same color eyes and hair, since Maisey’s hair had been much lighter when she was that age. Although the resemblance was uncanny, there were distinct differences, too. The girl’s forehead was a bit higher, her mouth not quite as wide, her eyes closer together.
Puzzled, Maisey took out picture after picture and studied each one. Despite the similarity of the subject’s features, she might’ve concluded that this girl had no connection to her. That some renter had left the photos in the bungalow years ago and, mysterious though it seemed, they’d wound up in one of the walls—as a subcontractor’s joke or an act of spite by a stranger.
Except that her parents were in a few of them, as Rafe had said. That tied her family to the pictures. Seeing her father’s likeness made Maisey yearn for him. Malcolm had been patient, kind. She’d been too afraid of her mother to go to Josephine for any type of nurturing. It was her father who’d provided the love she needed, and she missed his calm, unwavering support. He was the one who’d let her know, with his tacit disapproval, that her mother’s and brother’s behavior was not acceptable or even usual for most people. Without that, she might’ve thought she was the abnormal one.
She paused to stare at a photo in which the same girl—at about two years old—was puckering up to give Malcolm a kiss.
He was obviously close to this child. So could it be her? Maybe she wasn’t remembering her own baby pictures clearly. Maisey couldn’t see Malcolm being quite so loving with anyone else.
Unless it was a member of his extended family. That would account for the likeness—but didn’t make much sense. Josephine had never cared for the Lazarows. As a result, they rarely associated with them. And there was another thing. Her father was the youngest of his family, and had married later in life, so his siblings wouldn’t have had little kids by the time he met Josephine.
This girl had to be someone on the Coldiron side. Maisey had a lot of cousins, some she knew and some she didn’t. Was it possible that her father had once been close to one of those children, someone he hadn’t maintained a relationship with?
He could’ve been different back then, more carefree and demonstrative. There was no doubt that living with Josephine had changed him. Toward the end of his life, he’d seemed downright miserable. Even at seven or eight, Maisey had understood—instinctively, since it was never expressed—that her father was only enduring his marriage for the sake of his children. Secretly, she’d believed he was doing it more for her than Keith. Keith was almost as temperamental as Josephine. Malcolm couldn’t relate to him, which was also part of Keith’s problems. Unlike her, he hadn’t shared a special bond with their father, had never had that anchor to temper the emotional ups and downs he suffered.
Instantly feeling guilty for acknowledging her father’s favoritism, Maisey told herself he’d stayed for both of them. He could’ve stayed for financial reasons, too. Although she hated to believe her father would let money trap him like that, after having been through a divorce herself, she understood how hard any kind of separation would’ve been. The Coldirons had the wealth and power to strip him of everything, including his children. And back then, when her grandfather was alive, they’d have been ruthless enough to do it.
Despite the oddness of that photo, it wasn’t until she came across another picture, one including Keith, that her heart started to jackhammer in her chest. She hadn’t completely discarded the possibility that this child might be her. It remained the most likely explanation. But in this particular photograph, her brother seemed to be about four, and the girl in question stood taller.
Since Maisey was two years younger, and he’d been big for his age, there’d never been a time when she was taller than Keith. She’d never even come close.
That eliminated any lingering doubts Maisey had. She couldn’t be this child. It was impossible. She could only be the newborn who showed up in a few of the older pictures at the bottom of the stack.
So…who was this girl? And why were they grouped together, posing as if they were siblings?
This couldn’t be an older sister. She and Keith didn’t have a sister. It was always just the two of them.
Or had there once been three?
THE SECRET SISTER is full of just that "secrets". Maisey moves back to her home town of Fairham, South Carolina to help her brother who has a drug problem which is driven by his mental illness. She also has to come to terms with her volatile relationship with her mother as well as pick up the pieces of her own life that she left behind in New York.
She never expected to run into the boy she lost her virginity to. This is where the mystery begins as Rafe is working on the property where Maisey chooses to stay and finds a box of old photos which he assumes are pictures of Maisey and her brother but little does he know that the girl in the picture was older than Maisey. So did they have another sister? If so what happened to her? Maisey is determined to find the answer which brings her relationship with her mother to a new level of hostile and also pushes her brother over the edge.
I love how Brenda Novak intertwines these different storylines as well as approach the subject of bipolar and how it effects the person who suffers from it and their loved ones.
This book had me from page one and it kept me engrossed until the last page. It has a twist that you won't see coming. I'm so looking forward to book 2 in this series.
It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak’s author career. “I caught my day- care provider drugging my children with cough syrup to get them to sleep while I was away,” Brenda says. “It was then I decided that I needed to do something from home.”
Now a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller, Brenda is currently writing a long-running small town contemporary romance series, which includes WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES (9/12), WHEN SNOW FALLS (11/12), WHEN SUMMER COMES (2/13), HOME TO WHISKEY CREEK (8/13), TAKE ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (11/13), COME HOME TO ME (4/14), THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS (11/14) and THIS HEART OF MINE (4/15). There is a prequel novella that kicks off the series titled WHEN WE TOUCH, which will be available for the first time in print in an anthology titled TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS (11/14) with #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber, Sheila Roberts and RaeAnne Thayne.
Many of Brenda’s books have been designated an RT Book Review Magazine “Top Pick” and have gone on to place in contests such as the Romance Writers of America RITA™ Award, the National Readers’ Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Write Touch Readers’ Award, and the Book Buyer’s Best.
Brenda has given writing workshops at various RWA events, RT Book Review Magazine conventions, California Fiction Writer meetings, women’s groups and library events. She’s also done television and radio, including GOOD MORNING AMERICA, YOUNG ICONS, a nationally syndicated show she did with her son, Thad, Fox 40 News, News 10, KCRA, GOOD DAY SACRAMENTO, GOOD DAY ARIZONA, Booklover TV and KFBK News Talk Radio.
Publishers Weekly says Brenda’s novels are “richly dramatic.” According to Library Journal, “Her work will appeal to those who like their romances with a “sophisticated touch.” In addition, RT Book Review Magazine says, “Brenda Novak skillfully blends richly developed characters and emotionally intense issues to create a powerful romance. This is an author destined for stardom.”
For more about Brenda, visit www.brendanovak.com, where you can find excerpts of her work, prize drawings and information about her online auctions for diabetes research, which she holds most years in the month of May in honor of her son and the many others who face this terrible disease.